Fighting back against Parkinson’s Disease

Special for Iron County Today

From Utah Center for Rural Health


CEDAR CITY–Fifty years ago, scientists believed a cure for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) would be found in five years. Yet this year, the complexity of this disease will result in more than 50,000 new diagnoses in the US alone, resulting in nearly 1 million people nationally with PD. One new way to combat the effects of PD involves non-contact boxing programs.

A boxing gym seems like the last place one would find someone with PD to be, yet boxing-inspired exercise programs are growing in popularity with men and women of all abilities. Research shows these exercises slow the progression of the disease thus enhancing walking ability, flexibility, balance, and overall well-being. To date, no medication has been able to do this.

Dan Dail, past Chair of Agriculture and Nutrition Science at Southern Utah University, battles PD daily and is leading the initiative in incorporate non-contact boxing exercises in a local setting. Dail has teamed up with students and staff from the SUU Rural Health Scholars program to create Southwest Parkinson’s Disease Fitness Alliance (swpdfit) in Cedar City. Initially, the alliance will host daily fitness courses involving non-contact boxing and the Lee Silverman Voice Technique-based physical therapy program (LSVT-BIG) to assist those battling PD. Future courses will include yoga and stationary cycling, as well lectures on topics like nutrition.

Dail has high hopes for the fitness alliance, indicating that, “Too often programs like Rock Steady Boxing for people with PD are denied in the more rural areas of the state. Perhaps we can work to remedy that.”

One of the most compelling reasons for starting a program like Southwest Parkinson’s Fitness Alliance locally is access to innovative therapies such as LSVT and Rock Steady Boxing. People with PD often have restrictions on their own driving or, as the disease progresses, they must stop driving and depend entirely on others. Most do not have the ability or means to travel outside their own community regularly and currently the closest facility is more than 200 miles away in Lehi, Utah. Therefore, this program will serve a great need in the local healthcare community.

Jens Howe, a pre-physical therapy student at SUU, recently became certified through international organization Rock Steady Boxing to integrate non-contact boxing techniques into this alliance. Howe will use this knowledge to both assist local individuals with PD to live better lives and to enhance his future career in health care.

The opening of the Southwest Parkinson Disease Fitness Alliance is planned for fall 2017 at Snap Fitness, located on Main Street in Cedar City. Rural Health Scholars volunteers, along with local physical therapists and fitness instructors will be present to assist participants through structured, purposeful and fun group classes tailored specifically to meet the needs of people with PD. Since so many people know someone affected by PD, additional assistance is needed. To find out how you might be able to assist, please contact Karen Ganss at 435-865-8660. For more information, go to or contact Dan Dail at 435-463-7285. Details regarding Rock Steady Boxing can be found at

The Rural Health Scholars Program, of which Howe is a member, is available at Southern Utah University, Dixie State University, Snow College, and Utah State University-Eastern in Price. Through a partnership with the University of Utah School of Medicine, this program assists students in becoming successful applicants to medical, nursing, podiatry, dental, pharmacy, and other health professions programs. For more information about the Utah Center for Rural Health programs, contact Ganss or visit

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